As a student, you learn a lot about teachers. You learn who they are, their passions and motivations. You discover that some few teachers genuinely are passionate about education, about guiding and challenging the intellects of their pupils. Unsurprisingly, these teachers tend to be the most successful. Their enthusiasm and dedication is reflected in both the attitudes and the accomplishments of those they teach. What may surprise you, however, is one thing these teachers tend to have in common:
They hate assessment! Contrary to popular belief, truly passionate teachers recognise that the strict, unmalleable routine of teaching, examination and grading is entirely counter-productive. Schools, they believe, should foster a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge. A system in which students are expected to learn facts by rote, regurgitate them in exam conditions and never use the knowledge again, is hardly conducive to this kind of environment. Essentially, the artificial limitations and boundaries of typical classroom education hamper childrens’ potential to learn.
And that is where personal computers come in. Today’s information technology creates an environment with few such boundaries, and almost no limitations. This does, of course, have its drawbacks. Confronted with such freedom, most children are understandably tempted to abuse it. Both electronic monitoring and constant teacher supervision will be necessary to keep them on task. In any case, without specific direction, many children will be lost while, on the other hand, providing specific direction defeats the purpose of an unrestricted learning environment.
This is why the primary value of personal computers in a classroom environment is in the education of gifted children. Without resorting to stereotypes, it is true that, as a general rule, those children labelled as ‘gifted’ tend to be more focused and more dedicated to academic work. Consequently, they are less likely to be drawn to the myriad distractions of the internet, and more likely to remain on task. Additionally, and most importantly, academically gifted children have the capacity for self-directed learning. With only basic instructions, they are able to spend their time productively researching a topic of their interest: not studying for a piece of assessment, but genuine learning for its own sake.
Education is widely viewed, somewhat deservedly, as an anachronistic industry. Not in the sense that education itself is obsolete, but simply because the teaching profession is sadly dominated by those who prefer to hang on to outdated traditions rather than actively seek to improve their methods. Information technology provides an amazing opportunity, both to gifted children and to the dedicated teachers helping them to realise their full potential. I only hope that, in the years to come, the value of technology will be recognised and utilised, revolutionising the education industry for the information age.